By Client Audrey Demmitt
This pandemic lifestyle takes me back to another time when I was stuck at home. I used to say that blindness benched me from the game of life. It was as if I was set aside after having a productive career and busy family life once I reached a certain level of vision loss. Someone pressed the pause button on my life. It began with leaving my job and the painful economic impact this had. I suddenly felt quite useless and unproductive. When I first began this period, my days were often aimless and filled with worry, fear, and frustration. How could I get back to living? What can I do to get back in the game? How can I reconnect with my friends and community? These concerns may sound familiar during this time of social distancing and the current global pandemic. There are similarities between the experiences; going blind can feel much like a “shelter-in-place” order or being on lockdown.
The descent into blindness can paralyze even the strongest among us. The world becomes unsafe and full of uncertainties. Often, you are afraid of the future, unable to imagine what it will look like. There is an overwhelming sense of loss of control as your independence is taken from you. When you are new to blindness, you become confined and your life is constricted. Isolation and loneliness are the new order of the day. Life will never be the same, for blindness changes everything. But after a time, it becomes clear there is a way forward.
This coronavirus crisis requires patience, action and courage to find a way forward. And that is what was required to get my life back. I was unwilling to put my life on hold. And so began my journey that led me to Leader Dogs for the Blind. Once I learned how to navigate safely in the world again, I no longer had to stay home. Cane training at LDB freed me and gave me the courage to try lots of new activities as a blind person. Eventually, I returned to a full life with a guide dog at my side, ready to meet the challenges ahead. Though my life was interrupted, it was a temporary test of my resilience.
Many people with disabilities are used to a life of imposed social distancing. For some, there is no end in sight while others find their way out and become active participants in life again. COVID-19 has tested our country and provided an opportunity to learn many valuable lessons. Blindness is a great teacher too. Blindness is always with you, challenging you to find new ways to do things. We do not know yet if COVID-19 will always be with us, but I am confident we will learn new ways to deal with pandemics. We will develop new skills to help us adjust and prepare for the next crisis. Who knew blindness and pandemics had so much in common?